The Legende of the Sir Gvyon
Guyon by Archimage abusd,
The Redcrosse knight awaytes,
Findes Mordant and Amauia slaine
With pleasures poisoned baytes.
As soon as Archimago discovers that Redcrosse has departed, he uses secret means to escape from the dungeon. There is nothing he likes better than tricking people and making them miserable and so he endeavours to ruin another life. Coming upon a goodly knight, Guyon, accompanied by an old Palmer, Archimago leads him to a woman with rent clothes and dishevelled hair, and with his prompting, she reveals her rapist as the Redcrosse knight! Guyon is astounded as he knows Redcrosse as an honourable knight, but there is nothing to it but to wreak revenge on his licentious behaviour. He does not know, however that the woman is false Duessa who was found wandering by Archimago after Arthur had defeated Orgoglio.
Yet as Guyon goes to attack Redcrosse, he has second thoughts upon seeing the cross on his shield, and begs his forgiveness. He explains why they were almost foes, whereupon the Palmer approaches and blesses Redcrosse in his endeavours. Plighting their goodwill, the knights go their own ways, Guyon and the Palmer meeting many challenges, until one day they come across a lamenting mother and child, but even more astounding, a bleeding woman with a baby playing in her lap and a corpse of a knight at her feet. Removing the knife from her body and repairing her wounds, he inquires of her plight. Her name is Amavia, and her husband Mordant left her pregnant to pursue exploits, but he is captured by the enchantress Acrasia, who lives in the Bower of Bliss and tempted him with immorality and pleasure. Dressed as a pilgrim, she seeks her husband but he knows her not when she finds him. They escape but not before Acrasia places a fatal curse on the man. As Amavia finishes her story, she dies of grief and Guyon and the Palmer bury the couple, plotting revenge for the waste of these two lives.
Babes bloudie hands may not be clensd,
the face of golden Meane.
Her sisters two Extremities:
striue her to banish cleane.
|Allegory of Temperance (1685)
Guyon, with compassion, attempts to wash the blood off the orphaned baby’s hands, yet they will not wash clean. The Palmer explains that fountains and pools may have different properties and there is a story behind this one. At this particular well, a nymph met Faunus, and fleeing and having no escape, Diana transformed her into a stone. The stone is shaped like a maid and the waters flow around like tears. The baby’s hand cannot be cleansed by this well, but allows it to be a sacred symbol of his mother’s innocence.
Arriving at a castle inhabited by three women with different mothers, Guyon is welcomed by the middle sister, Medina, who leads him to a lovely bower. However, the news of his arrival reaches the sisters who are entertaining their knights, Sir Hudibras and Sir Sans-loy, the latter who had tried to kidnap Una. Before they can attack Guyon, they fall into battle among themselves, leaving Guyon to inquire as to what is happening. When they see him, they fall upon him, but he defends himself quite adequately until Medina attempts to separate them with pleas and recriminations. Finally they bow to her wise arguments and agree to dine with her, but the two sisters are unhappy. Elissa refuses to eat, feeling the entertainment base, yet Perissa enjoys all in excess. But Medina, with strong grace and behaviour, keeps all in check and inquires of Guyon’s purpose. He is a knight of the Faerie Queene, on a mission with the Palmer to overcome false Acrasia. Then at Medina’s behest, he tells the story of Mordant and Amavia, until it is bedtime.
Vaine Braggadocchio getting Guyons
horse is made the scorne
Of knighthood trew, and is of fayre
Bephoebe fowle forlorne.
|Maidens picking flowers by a stream (1911)
John William Waterhouse
Guyon names the orphaned child, Ruddymane, and leaves him with Medina to care for. Since his steed was stolen by a secret thief, he continues on foot to Acrasia. But now the horse thief is revealed: Braggadocio, who comes upon a man, Trompart, and threatens him into becoming his servant, although we wonder if servant might be more clever than master? They meet up with Archimago, who because of Braggadocio’s bearing, thinks he may be able to assist him in his search for Redcrosse and Guyon.
He asks Trompart why his master has no sword, but the servant swears that he is a doughty knight even with only a spear. Archimago suddenly blurts out his vengeful plan and the two promise to help, although Archimago is still concerned with Braggadocio’s lack of a sword. In spite of Braggadocio’s bragging of his conquests without one, Archimago promises him King Arthur’s flaming sword, disappearing unexpectedly, severely scaring the master and servant. With trepidation, they journey through a forest and discover a maiden, Belphoebe. She is so astoundingly beautiful that to attempt to describe her would disgrace her beauty, and she is clad in lily white garments. She inquires of Trompart if he has seen a deer which she had maimed, then seeing Braggadocio behind the bush where he’d crept in cowardice, thinking him game she moves to kill him yet is stayed by Trompart. Braggadocio attempts flattery, asking why with her beauty she is not at court, yet Belphoebe instructs him that true honour is found in the woods doing honest labour. When he tries to embrace her, she flees, and the two set off again, the poor horse disgusted with his ignoble burden.
Guyon does Furor bind in chaines,
and stops Occasion:
Deliuers Phedon, and therefore
by strife is rayld upon.
The Palmer continues to assist the horseless Guyon and lead him in the ways of temperance. Together they approach a mad old man dragging a young man by the hair, and an old hag limping behind them shouting insults at the stripling and striking him with stones and her cane. Her face was unpleasantly wrinkled and her hair hung down the front of her face, but a large bald patch was at the back. Guyon is appalled and tries to free the youth, but the madman goes bezerk and the Palmer introduces him as Furor and the hag, his mother, as Occasion. He cannot be killed by the sword, and it is best to subdue Occasion first, whereupon Guyon overpowers her, then binds Furor in chains.
The captive man then begins to tell his story: he once had a friend, Philemon, who betrayed him upon his pending marriage to Claribell, implying that his fiancée was not faithful. He tricked him by setting up a scenario where Philemon seduced a maid, Pyrene, who was pretending to be Claribell (yes, this is the same plot as in Much Ado About Nothing). Enraged, the man killed Claribell, and when Pyrene confessed all, he also dispatched Philemon with poison. The two find that the man’s name is Phaon from the house of Coradin, and the Palmer begins to counsel temperance, when they are interrupted by a squire, Atin, who is looking for Occasion for his own master Pyrocles, who loves battle and war. The Palmer is shocked that someone would look for an occasion to fight since occasion will find you without the looking. Guyon agrees, and the squire, in pique, shoots a dart at them before running off.
Pyrochles does with Guyon fight,
And Furors chayne vnbinds
Of whom sore hurt, for his reuenge
Attin Cymochles finds.
|Two Knights Fighting in a Landscape (1824)
Pyrochles makes an appearance, riding a blood-red horse and he summarily attacks Guyon. Guyon is fortunate enough to wound the horse, whereupon Pyrochles must fight him on foot. The two exchange staggering, intense blows until Guyon brings his foe to his knees, then lays him out until he cries mercy for his life. Using temperance, Guyon mediates his rage until he concedes to spare his life if he will be loyal to him. Pyrochles is embarrassed but Guyon says he need not be, only control his rage and lust for war as it does not benefit anyone, either friend or foe. Pyrochles frees Occasion who wants him to fight Guyon again but Furor, when freed, begins battle with Pyrochles. When he calls on Guyon for help, the Palmer stays him, saying Pyrochles deserves his fate, but Atin thinks his master is slain and runs to tell Pyrochles’ brother, Cymochles, who is known for his feats in battle and whose lover is Acrasia, keeper of the Bower of Bliss. Finding him being petted and tended by women in the bower, Atin taunts him to embarrassment and he rushes off to avenge his brother.
Guyon is of immodest Merth,
led into loose desire,
Fights with Cymochles, whiles his bro-
ther burnes in furious fire.
|Young Woman in a Boat (1870)
Inflamed with rage, Cymochles comes to a river where a little boat adorned with boughs and arbours lies.
And therein sate a Ladie fresh and faire,
Making sweet solace to her selfe alone;
Sometimes she sung, as loud as larke in aire,
Sometimes she laught, that nigh her breth was gone,
Yet was there not with her else any one,
That might to her moue cause of meriment:
Matter of merth enough, though there were none
She could deuise, and thousand waies inuent,
To feede her foolish humour, and vaine iolliment.
She agrees to ferry Cymochles across the river, but refuses Atin in spite of her passenger’s entreaties. Phædria, for that is her name, continues her frivolous behaviour by placing flowers in her hair and generally acting silly. When questioned by him, she reveals they both serve Acrasia and finally she lands him on an island in Idle Lake. With Cymochles lulled to sleep, she returns and picks up Guyon, (less the Palmer, to whom she refuses passage) who is at first polite to her, but when she begins her immodest merriment, “her dalliance he despised”. When they land on the island, Guyon is frosted because he did not want to come there. Cymochles awakes, finds the pair, and he battles Guyon, yet Phædria finally assuages their rage, entreating love and romance instead of war. Guyon returns to shore and spies Atin, who soon sees a knight running for the lake. It is Pyrochles, who thinks he is burning with fire though none can see it, and he launches himself into the lake. Atin jumps in to save him from drowning and they are both captured by the muddy waters and have to be rescued by Archimago. Then with herbs, balms and a spell, Archimago quenches Furor’s fire.
There is a curious echo of appearance versus reality at Idle Lake. The lake itself appears different to each of the characters and while Pyrochles claims he’s burning, no one can see the flames. Is there an element of illusion that comes with intemperance?
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It’s a relief to pick up The Faerie Queene again and resume my posts. For some reason, it seems like less effort this time.
Phew, what drama! The lessons of Temperance are quite easy to spot in these cantos. We’ll see how Books VII- XII progress and if Guyon is eventually tempted to intemperance. He’s done quite well so far, better than Redcrosse I would judge, but the book is yet young. And does Guyon ever regain his horse?